Device tossed in restaurant was 'glorified firecracker'

AP News
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Posted: Feb 03, 2017 4:50 PM
Device tossed in restaurant was 'glorified firecracker'

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — A homemade incendiary device thrown into a crowded California restaurant at dinnertime was a "glorified firecracker" that didn't appear to be made to injure anyone, a police spokesman said Friday.

When the device ignited at the Cheesecake Factory in Pasadena Thursday night, panicked patrons abandoned their meals and knocked over chairs as they rushed for the exits, though no one was hurt.

Pasadena Police Lt. Vasken Gourdikian told The Associated Press on Friday that it appears Thursday night's incident was a "stupid prank." Police said the man opened the restaurant's front door, lit a homemade incendiary device and tossed it inside. The device landed under a table, and witnesses said the restaurant filled with smoke.

"It wasn't meant to be destructive in the sense that it didn't have any fragments or shrapnel," Gourdikian said. "It was made to make a loud bang, which it did."

Gourdikian said the restaurant received no threats either before or after the explosion. Detectives are still working to track down a motive for the incident, but Gourdikian said that "on its face, it looks like a stupid prank."

Detectives returned to the scene Friday and were canvassing for surveillance video that may help them identify the man who threw the device. They described him as having a heavy beard and wearing all black clothing and a black beanie.

Garrett Gunkle, who was sitting with his wife at the bar, told television station KNBC in Los Angeles that some people tripped and fell as they rushed for the doors, leaving behind their coats, cellphones and baby strollers.

"People were jumping over one another, fighting to get over bar stools," he said. "It was very chaotic."

Pasadena police said they had notified federal authorities about the incident "out of an abundance of caution." Lourdes Arocho, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Los Angeles, said the investigation was being handled by city police.

The restaurant reopened Friday.